by Daniel Mencher | COUNTERPOINT: What the elections have wrought.
It has been over one week since President Bush’s second midterm elections, and Republicans are still reeling from the thrashing that they received. Two years ago, Republicans maintained majorities in both houses of Congress, and Bush was re-elected with the greatest number of popular votes ever received by a presidential candidate. This year, the Democrats demolished the Republicans in the House and just managed to take control of the Senate as well. To be sure, most congressional Republicans deserved what they got. The rest of the nation, however, does not deserve what the Democrats will bring about. Also, while some Republicans are convinced that this bodes well for 2008, they are mistaken.
The real reason for which Republicans did not manage to get re-elected is that they did not deserve to continue in office. Republicans, allegedly the partisans of conservatism, radically increased spending and bureaucracy, increasingly federalized institutions that by all rights should be sovereign to the states (such as education), and responded belatedly and ineptly to popular calls for secure borders. While some Republicans did try to propound conservative principles, most just paid hypocritical lip service to their conservative base. By all accounts, the congressional Republicans got precisely what they deserved.
However, the results were, in the end, disastrous for the Republic. The items for which the Republicans were voted out of office are the very items with which the Democrats, now in power, will push full steam ahead. Americans can expect obstructionism, increased spending, increased federalization of just about everything, and a higher priority on political correctness than on securing the borders. In contrast to what the Republicans did manage to do well, there will also be increased taxation, efforts at liberal social policy, obstruction against all judicial nominees who are not liberal activists, cooperation with the anti-American UN, and continual attempts to frustrate the President’s efforts in the War on Terror. In other words, if the government has been doing poorly thus far, the worst is yet to come.
Some conservatives, though, are content with the election results, citing two factors. Firstly, many of the Democrats recently elected appeared moderate during the campaign; in fact, some even appeared conservative. Secondly, some Republicans think that the Democrats will do such a bad job over the next two years that Americans will not want to vote for them in 2008. That, combined with Republicans’ seeing this year’s election results as a reminder to return to their basic principles, will pave the way for a conservative Republican victory in 2008. These two factors appear encouraging, but belief in them is misguided.
It is true that many of the newly elected Democrats are moderate, and some are even conservative. However, the real problem with a Democratic majority is not just their voting power. What is worrisome is the ascendancy of the older, establishment Democrats—the very liberal ones—to positions of prominence. Ultra-liberal Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), as the new Speaker of the House, will set the agenda for the entire House of Representatives. Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), who is very fiscally liberal, will become chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, which is the only committee in either house of Congress from which bills regarding taxation can originate. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who was among the foremost Senators in obstructing Bush’s judicial nominees from getting a fair up-or-down vote, will resume the chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee. In other words, the new Democrats might not strictly vote the party line, but their older, more liberal superiors will be elevated to positions from which they can cause serious damage.
Also, it is not true that the Republicans have a good chance at being victorious in 2008. At worst, the Democrats will be viewed in two years as left-wing, obstructionist hacks who are bereft of ideas. That is hardly different from the worst portrayals of them today, yet they were still elected. In fact, the new Democratic legislators will give them the guise of being more mainstream. Also, if they pass legislation that Bush vetoes, they will make the case that the Republicans are the obstructionists. Meanwhile, the Republicans, who presumed themselves to be more in tune with mainstream American values, and who (unlike the Democrats) were certainly not hesitant to be proactive in the realm of ideas, were obliterated at the voting booths. Two years from now, their rhetoric might make them seem more sincere about conservative values than they seem now, but they will not have a chance to prove their sincerity. This is because the Democrats either will prevent them from accomplishing anything significant, or they will let them pass moderate legislation and then, as majority party, take credit for it.
The bottom line is, the Union faces over two years of dismal prospects. Whatever the Republicans did badly, the Democrats will do worse. Not only will fiscal responsibility, limited government, national security and sovereignty, and traditionalism hardly even receive lip service, but the odds of a conservative resurgence in 2008 are discouragingly slim. Woe is at hand for the Republic.
Mr. Mencher is a senior majoring in Spanish.